Caring for your teeth is an essential part of maintaining a beautiful smile as well as having healthy gums. Most dentists recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day and after every meal to remove leftover food particles after eating. When food particles are allowed to sit on the surface of your teeth and gums, then they can fester and lead to the formation of plaque and bacteria. Toothpaste is an essential part of the tooth-brushing process, and one of the most active and effective ingredients in toothpaste is fluoride. Fluoride helps remove plaque buildup, and it helps prevent tooth decay. This makes it seem like fluoride is a positive agent for maintaining optimum dental health. However, exposure to too much fluoride can, in fact, have the adverse effect.
What Is Dental Fluorosis?
Dental fluorosis is mostly a cosmetic dental condition that develops when people were exposed to too much fluoride during the first eight years of their lives. Generally, the first eights years of life are when the body is busy forming the permanent teeth, so being exposed to too much fluoride throughout these years could end up leading to the development of this condition. People won’t be able to discern whether or not they have the condition until their permanent teeth actually come in and emerge from the gums. Upon doing so, people can tell whether or not they suffer from dental fluorosis by looking for some of the symptoms that are commonly associated with this dental issue.
Symptoms of Dental Fluorosis
People who suffer from dental fluorosis might have teeth that appear slightly discolored, or in more severe cases, they might have some that have stains that range in level of intensity from yellow to dark brown. Other symptoms of dental fluorosis include irregularities in the surface of the tooth and pits in the tooth that are highly noticeable. More often than not, however, the primary indicator of dental fluorosis is the existence of lacy white markings on the teeth that are so faint and difficult to detect that only dentists can find them.
Causes of Dental Fluorosis
Although many people have never heard of dental fluorosis before, the condition is more widespread than one would realize, affecting nearly one in every four citizens of the United States. This particular dental condition didn’t really gain attention until the 20th century and that is due, in part, to one of the common causes of it. Because many public water networks contain fluoride as one of the chemicals used to sanitize water, this is one of the primary places where people become exposed to too much fluoride. Perhaps the event that most brought media attention to dental fluorosis is the “Colorado Brown Stain” epidemic. During this time period, dentists were noticing an alarming number of patients who were born and resided in the Colorado Springs area who had brown stains on their teeth. The cause was traced back to the high levels of fluoride in the public water system. All of this ended up leading to a movement that advocated for better fluoride regulations in public water networks. The idea is to have enough fluoride in the water to help prevent cavities but not to have so much in it that residents end up developing dental fluorosis.
All cases of dental fluorosis can’t necessarily be attributed solely to too much fluoride in public water networks. Excessive and improper use of products containing fluoride, such as mouthwash and toothpaste, can also contribute to dental fluorosis. For instance, sometimes children who enjoy the taste of toothpaste end up swallowing it instead of spitting it out, and this contributes to the development of dental fluorosis. Also, taking a supplement that has fluoride in it while drinking beverages that have fluoride in them can end up pushing people over the threshold for how much fluoride their bodies can safely handle without developing dental fluorosis.
Dental Fluorosis Treatment
Although is most cases, the manifestation of dental fluorosis is so mild that no treatment is needed, in other cases there are a few measures that have proven effective at lessening the negative effects of fluorosis. Some of these measures include the following:
Usually just one type of treatment method is effective at lessening discoloration of the teeth. However, in more severe cases, patients might need to undergo a combination of the aforementioned treatments.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Dental fluorosis” Retrieved on December 5, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/safety/dental_fluorosis.htm.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027
Fluoride Action Network. “Dental fluorosis.” Retrieved on December 5, 2016, from http://fluoridealert.org/issues/fluorosis/.
Fluoride Action Network
104 Walnut Street
Binghamptom, NY 13905